In Production: Quick and Cheap Bedside Test for Cortisol Uses Smartphone

An innovative method of measuring the stress hormone cortisol is being developed by researchers in Utah. Requiring just a simple kit and a smartphone to read results, this new approach should allow quick, affordable, and accurate testing of cortisol levels, enabling rapid diagnosis of adrenal diseases, the investigators say.

“A lab charges about $25 to $50 for a quantitative salivary cortisol test and has a turnaround time of days to a week,” said lead researcher Joel Ehrenkranz, MD, director of diabetes and endocrinology at Intermountain Medical Center, Murray, Utah. “This test, taken in a medical office or at home, will cost less than $5 and take less than 10 minutes,” he noted.

Dr. Ehrenkranz reported the details of the new test kit, developed at his institution, at ICE/ENDO 2014 week. He said he and his fellow researchers are now collating clinical data for a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) submission and hope to gain approval of the test as a class 2 medical device in the United States in 2015.

Chair of the session, Jeremy Tomlinson, MD, of University of Birmingham, United Kingdom, said the new approach employs “great technology and is an interesting innovation, but there are a few concerns. For example, how well will it perform against the state-of-the-art technique for measuring salivary cortisol, which is mass spectrometry — is it as sensitive?”

Also there is a possibility the immunoassay in the new test will cross react with another steroid hormone, prednisolone, that people might be taking for a whole range of inflammatory conditions, so “you would want to make sure it’s measuring what you want it to,” he noted.

And finally, there is the question of exactly how this would be used.

Cortisol levels are needed when conditions are suspected where too much or too little cortisol is produced, but the diagnosis for most of these doesn’t really need to be immediate, Dr. Tomlinson explained to Medscape Medical News. However, he conceded there might be a role for the assay in patients presenting to the emergency room or in developing nations.

No More Presumptive Treatment of Adrenal Insufficiency

At the meeting, Dr. Ehrenkranz said that adrenal diseases are commonly overlooked because current methods of measuring salivary cortisol require instrumentation and technical personnel and so are costly and unable to deliver timely results.

He noted also that a stint in the developing world convinced him that a simpler test was needed, so he and his colleagues set about developing an assay that would be inexpensive and easy to perform — they came up with disposable cortisol immunoassay strips containing a glass fiber element with colloidal gold-labeled murine anticortisol antibodies and a saliva collection pad.

The person being tested inserts a strawlike saliva collector under the tongue, which wicks the saliva to the immunoassay test strip housed in a cassette, which is then inserted into a reader in the device.

“The device…includes a case, a light pipe, and a lens and costs about a dollar to make. There is no battery power, and it’s unbreakable, passive, and reusable,” Dr Ehrenkranz said.

Because of the physical properties of the gold nanoparticles, a smartphone flash can illuminate and camera-image the color generated by the colloidal gold-labeled anticortisol antibodies, he explained.

The color subsequently generated is “read” by an app on the smartphone to give a cortisol reading, based on an algorithm derived from observed vs reference salivary cortisol values. The R value of this curve was 0.996 for salivary cortisol in the range of 0.012-3.0 µg/dL, Dr Ehrenkranz noted.

The new technology can therefore measure cortisol in a range sufficient to diagnose adrenal insufficiency and hypercortisolism and monitor physiologic variations in cortisol concentration, he said.

And the software is “operating-system agnostic,” he added, meaning the device can be used on all platforms, including iOS, Android, Windows, and BlackBerry, and it has a universal form factor that works with all smartphones.

“Measuring salivary cortisol at the point of care in 5 minutes using an inexpensive immunochromatographic assay, reader, and smartphone may obviate the need to presumptively treat patients for adrenal insufficiency and makes cortisol assays available to regions of the world that currently lack access to this diagnostic test,” he concluded.

Test of Use in Emergency Room, in Developing Countries

Dr. Tomlinson explained that diagnosis of Cushing’s syndrome — caused either by tumors of the pituitary gland producing too much ACTH or tumors of the adrenal gland producing too much cortisol — or alternatively, diagnosis of conditions where it’s thought too little cortisol is being secreted, such as Addison’s disease — an autoimmune process whereby the adrenal gland is destroyed — are not conditions “you necessarily have to diagnose in a few minutes by the bedside,” and therefore it is better to use the “gold standard” of diagnosis, mass spectrometry, in these cases.

But the new test “might be of use in determining whether people have enough of their own natural corticosteroid, in terms of deciding whether you need to give supplemental cortisol to people in an emergency situation,” he explained.

This could include patients presenting with suspected or underlying pituitary or adrenal disease or in people who have been on large doses of steroids who have then stopped taking them, so there will be a resulting suppression of their natural steroid production, he noted.

“That’s not an uncommon situation that we see in the emergency room. At the moment, if there’s suspicion, we might take a test but it takes a day or 2 to come back from the laboratory, and in the meantime we will give patients [presumptive] steroids. But you could do this test by the bedside,” he acknowledged.

And in developing countries, use of this test “is feasible, where cost comes into the equation and you might not have access to mass spectrometry; this could be an alternative and would help you to exclude or make these diagnoses,” he concluded.

This study was privately funded. Dr. Ehrenkranz and colleagues report no relevant financial relationships.

Joint Meeting of the International Society of Endocrinology and the Endocrine Society: ICE/ENDO 2014; June 24, 2014. Abstract OR48-2

From http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/827580

Does Coffee Trigger Cortisol Release?

coffee-prescription

 

Cortisol is the infamous hormone you release when you’re stressed. In high doses it inhibits brain function, slows metabolism, breaks down muscle, and increases blood pressure. Have you ever felt panicked before a public speech and forgotten everything you were going to say? That’s what a big bump in cortisol feels like. And if you’re looking for stress relief, lowering cortisol helps.

Cortisol isn’t all bad, though. In fact, it’s necessary for you to function. Cortisol peaks in the morning, helping to wake you up, and it can be a useful as an indicator of strain, letting you know when to slow down or stop something that’s stressing you out. Cortisol also decreases inflammation – that’s part of the reason your body releases it in response to, for example, a workout that tears your muscle tissue.

Low cortisol is an issue, too. Insufficient cortisol can leave you feeling tired, emotional, and anxious. As long as you avoid chronically elevated or depleted cortisol you can make the little hormone work to your advantage.

A common argument against drinking coffee is that it triggers cortisol release, but (forgive us for getting nitpicky) that may not be true. Caffeine definitely triggers cortisol release. In fact, the increase in cortisol is part of the reason caffeine makes you feel more alert.

Remember a few paragraphs ago, when we were talking about how you build a tolerance to some of caffeine’s effects but not others? Cortisol release is one of the effects to which you build tolerance. If you only take caffeine now and then, it causes a big boost in cortisol. But if you get caffeine daily (by drinking coffee every morning, for example) your body tempers the cortisol response. You still release cortisol, but not enough to worry about unless your cortisol is already out of whack.

Does coffee itself (separate from caffeine) cause cortisol release? Mycotoxins do, at least in mice, and they cause inflammation (a common trigger of cortisol release) in humans. It’s difficult to say whether mold-free coffee increases cortisol.

Regardless, studies suggest that cortisol release from caffeine is mild if you drink it daily. For most of us, that little bump shouldn’t be a problem.

From https://www.yahoo.com/health/caffeine-and-cortisol-does-coffee-1276507994071094.html

Roundup may cause potentially fatal ‘adrenal insufficiency’

IMPORTANT!  A new study finds that the Roundup herbicide disrupts the hormonal system of rats at low levels at which it’s meant to produce no adverse effects. By the same mechanism It may be causing the potentially fatal condition of ‘adrenal insufficiency’ in humans.

Monsanto’s glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup is an endocrine (hormone) disruptor in adult male rats, a new study shows.

The lowest dose tested of 10 mg/kg bw/d (bodyweight per day) was found to reduce levels of corticosterone, a steroid hormone produced in the adrenal glands. This was only one manifestation of a widespread disruption of adrenal function.

No other toxic effects were seen at that dose, so if endocrine disruption were not being specifically looked for, there would be no other signs that the dose was toxic. However a 2012 study detected a 35% testosterone down-regulation in rats at a concentration of 1 part per million.

In both studies endocrine disruption was detected at the lowest level tested for, so we don’t know if, when it comes to endocrine disruption, there are ‘safe’ lower doses of Roundup. In technical parlance, this means that no NOAEL (no observed adverse effect level), was found.

Significantly, the authors believe that the hormonal disruption could lead to the potentially fatal condition know as ‘adrenal insufficiency’ in humans, which causes fatigue, anorexia, sweating, anxiety, shaking, nausea, heart palpitations and weight loss.

“A progressive increase in its prevalence has been observed in humans, while a very few studies relating to xenobiotic exposure and adrenal insufficiency development have been reported”, they write. The increasing levels of Roundup in the environment and food could be “one of the possible mechanisms of adrenal insufficiency.”

How does this level relate to safety limits set by regulators?

One problem with trying to work out how the endocrine disruptive level of 10 mg/kg bw/d relates to how ‘safe’ levels are set by regulators.

The experiment looked at Roundup, the complete herbicide formulation as sold and used, but regulators only look at the long-term safety of glyphosate alone, the supposed active ingredient of Roundup.

Safe levels for chronic exposure to the Roundup herbicide product have never been tested or assessed for regulatory processes. This is a serious omission because Roundup has been shown in many tests to be more disruptive to hormones than glyphosate alone, thanks to the numerous other ingredients it contains to enhance its weed-killing properties.

Given this yawning data gap, let’s for a moment assume that the regulatory limits set for glyphosate alone can be used as a guide for the safe level of Roundup.

The endocrine disruptive level of Roundup found in the experiment, of 10 mg/kg bw/d, is is well above the acceptable daily intake (ADI) set for glyphosate in Europe (0.3 mg/kg bw/d) and the US (1.75 mg/kg bw/d). But this isn’t a reason to feel reassured, since with endocrine effects, low doses can be more disruptive than higher doses.

Another worrying factor is that 10 mg/kg bw/d is well below the NOAEL (no observed adverse effect level) for chronic toxicity of glyphosate: 500 mg/kg bw/d for chronic toxicity, according to the US EPA.

In other words, the level of 500 mg/kg bw/d – a massive 50 times higher than the level of Roundup found to be endocrine disruptive in the experiment – is deemed by US regulators not to cause chronic toxicity.

This experiment shows they are wrong by a long shot. They failed to see toxicity below that level because they failed to take endocrine disruptive effects from low doses into account and industry does not test for them.

Hormone disruption take place at or below ‘no adverse effects’ levels

Interestingly, the NOAEL for glyphosate in industry’s three-generation reproductive studies in rats was much lower than that for chronic toxicity – 30 mg/kg bw/day for adults and 10 mg/kg bw/day for offspring.

However the latter figures – at which no adverse effects should be apparent from glyphosate – are at the same as or higher level than the level of Roundup found to be endocrine disruptive in the new study.

These results therefore show that the reproductive processes of the rats are sensitive to low doses that are apparently not overtly toxic. This in turn suggests that the reproductive toxicity findings are due to endocrine disruptive effects.

Regulatory tests still do not include tests for endocrine disruption from low doses, in spite of the fact that scientists have known about the syndrome since the 1990s.

In the final section of the new study, the researchers discuss its implications. They note that the effects seen in the Roundup-treated rats to the Adrenocorticotropic hormone receptor (ACTH) were similar to adrenal insufficiency in humans:

“The findings that Roundup treatment down regulates endogenous ACTH, is similar to the condition known as adrenal insufficiency in humans. This condition manifests as fatigue, anorexia, sweating, anxiety, shaking, nausea, heart palpitations and weight loss. Chronic adrenal insufficiency could be fatal, if untreated.

“A progressive increase in its prevalence has been observed in humans, while a very few studies relating to xenobiotic exposure and adrenal insufficiency development have been reported. The present study describes one of the possible mechanisms of adrenal insufficiency due to Roundup and suggests more systematic studies, to investigate the area further. “

Claire Robinson of GMWatch commented: “Since no safe dose has been established for Roundup with regard to endocrine disrupting effects, it should be banned.”

 


 

The study:Analysis of endocrine disruption effect of Roundup in adrenal gland of male rats‘ is by Aparamita Pandey and Medhamurthy Rudraiah, and published in Toxicology Reports 2 (2015) pp.1075-1085 on open access.

This article was originally published by GMWatch. This version has been subject to some edits and additions by The Ecologist.

From http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_round_up/2985058/roundup_may_cause_potentially_fatal_adrenal_insufficiency.html

Enzyme that triggers muscle wasting could be key to REVERSING signs of ageing | Daily Mail Online

Drawing on expertise from both the University of Birmingham and Queen Elizabeth Hospitals Birmingham, they applied their knowledge of Cushing’s syndrome to the new problem (sarcopenia).

Cushing’s is hormonal disorder caused by high levels of cortisol. Patients suffer from the syndrome see marked changes in their body composition.

The effects can be devastating for patients who can develop features such as muscle wasting and weakness, weight gain, thinning of the bones, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Dr Hassan-Smith said: ‘Looking at this particular enzyme seemed like an intriguing way forward.

‘We knew how it works in relation to Cushing’s Syndrome, which is characterised by similar symptoms, and thought it would be worthwhile applying what we knew to the ageing population.’

Currently there are no treatments for sarcopenia, the team explained.

But pharmaceutical companies are developing and testing ways to block or switch off the enzyme, with a focus on treatments for conditions including diabetes.

The team is excited about taking the results of their study forward into future research, with one eye on adapting the inhibitors already in development to combat muscle ageing.

Dr Hassan Smith added: ‘The next stage is a “proof of concept” study to look at the effects of these inhibitive pharmaceuticals on muscle function, before opening it up into a clinical trial.

‘It’s an as yet unexplored area that could yield beneficial results for a problem that is becoming more prevalent as our lifespans increase.’

The study was published in the journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

 

via Enzyme that triggers muscle wasting could be key to REVERSING signs of ageing | Daily Mail Online.

The 3 Things That Wreck Your Hormones (Part 3) | Alan Christianson

adrenal-glands

When it comes to your hormones, stress is all about the adrenal glands. These are a couple of nickel-sized pieces of tissue that can completely make or break your health. The adrenal glands can be affected by diseases, but this is extremely rare and rather straightforward for doctors to diagnose. It is much more common for the adrenal glands to be free of disease but dysfunctional under a large stress load.

The adrenals are different from your other glands in that they make different amounts of hormones as the day goes on. They release a burst of cortisol to wake us up, and they shut it off at night to let us sleep.

Even when a disease or the aging process is the core problem with your hormones, the adrenals still play a role, and here is why: Hormones don’t really do anything until they go inside of your cells. Each cell has a wall around it that lets in just the right amount of hormones at just the right times.

Think of your cell as a castle wall with a drawbridge that only comes down to those who know the password phrase. The password phrase that lets hormones into your cell is “the cortisol rhythm.” The cortisol rhythm is controlled by the adrenal glands. When adrenal hormones are wrecked, it is important to understand what this means. It doesn’t mean they are unable to make hormones; it means their rhythm is disturbed. This is important because you may read that taking cortisol can help if you have low cortisol. At first, this makes sense and seems to fit the strategy for thyroid disease — if you have too little thyroid hormone, take some to replace what is lacking. The problem is that in the case of adrenal stress, low cortisol is not the result of the adrenals being unable to make cortisol. It is the result of all the parts involved in cortisol production being off in their timing. Putting more cortisol into the system just makes the problem worse.

If taking cortisol is not the answer, then what is?

Read the rest of the article at The 3 Things That Wreck Your Hormones (Part 3) | Alan Christianson.

 

 

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